Don't forget the gender-neutral lyrics!

West Point alters its school songs to respect female cadets.


Kate Harding
June 6, 2008 9:32PM (UTC)

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point started admitting female cadets in 1976, but until recently, their hundred-year-old school songs were still full of lines like "the men of the Corps" -- written when no one dreamed of ever seeing women in the Army. Such gendered language may seem like a small thing, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought home its unfairness in a sobering manner. Two female West Point graduates have been killed in battle, and Superintendent Lt. Gen. Franklin "Buster" Hagenbeck said hearing the line "Guide us thy sons, aright" sung at their funerals was "unacceptable." That line, in the school's Alma Mater, has now been changed to "Guide us thine own, aright," and a few other minor changes have been made to be inclusive of West Point's 600 female cadets and 3,000 female graduates.

Predictably, there's been some resistance among those who see this as messing with tradition. According to the Hudson Valley's Times Herald-Record, some alums are saying they'll refuse to sing the new lyrics. And sadly, some current female cadets are nervous about being blamed for the changes, fearing they'll "come off as instigators trying to rewrite a beloved piece of West Point tradition." But Hagenbeck -- who spent months consulting alumni students and other leaders before going ahead with the changes -- says the decision is firm.

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"'At the end of the day, as the commander I am ultimately responsible for doing what's right -- and making these relatively minor changes are the right thing to do,' he said. 'As leaders of character, do we expect our cadets or graduates to condone exclusion of women? No. We clearly expect them to do the right thing.'"


Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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